Tuesday 14 August 2012

When the Stars are Aligned

I'll admit I'm a worry wart, but not a hand-wringer. In other words, it's not all that obvious to those around me that I am worrying over something. And I do tend to worry over the least minutiae.

I don't wring my hands and I don't eat the entire contents of my fridge. In fact, I'm not tense to the point of jumping when the phone rings. I don't pace the floor. I appear, for all intents and purposes, to still be myself.

In moments of actual worry, when I am waiting to hear the outcome of a decision, a game or a test, my mother's words come to me. "It will happen if the stars are aligned."

I am uncertain as to what this means, in the symbolic sense of course.

I am a skywatcher and so I am aware when the stars actually do align. And by stars, I mean planets, since stars don't shift with respect to each other in their universal paths. They shift away from us seasonally but not in relation to their neighbouring stars. They are, in essence, too far away to show any real shifting of position. Orion's belt always has three stars, Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. They remain the three points of the belt around the waist of the constellation of Orion and is one of the most recognizable objects in the night sky after the dippers, big and little.

The planets, on the other hand, are much much closer to us than these constellations made of distant star clusters. The planets dance in the night sky, appearing like the swirling skirts of a lady on the hand of a capable leading man, disappearing into the crowd of couples as the strains of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik carry gently over the breeze. The planets swish in and out of our vision in the same graceful manner. Sometimes the trails of Mercury can be seen in the wee hours of the morning, just before sunrise. And Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, illuminates the face of the moon with her late evening glory. Unlike the stars, they are not always there.

Were we on another planet, we would see our beloved Earth as a spot in the sky, glowing with the same sunshine that emanates from the yellow dwarf we call our Sun. We might even wish upon it, mistaking it for a genuine twinkle in the night sky.

Star light, star bright
First star I see tonight
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish I wish tonight.

This childish mantra, coupled with the vastness of the universe laid out above my head very effectively removes my worries. They just don't seem that big anymore.

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